Friday, August 17, 2007

The Director, The Actor….and the Reactor

One of my favorite sections in the Big Book is about the Director and the Actor. It basically says that, as alcoholics, we want to both direct everything going on around us while also being the lead actor in the unfolding drama. The book indicates that often our motives are both good and bad, but that we search for the perfect outcome to every situation, and only fail to find that perfect ending because of the actions of other players.

Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery, and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous, even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

I was certainly both the director and the lead actor. I considered myself altruistic, trying to make life better for everyone. I thought that if people only followed my script, everyone’s lives would turn out better. I could change the world, one person at a time, if only people would listen to me. And do what I say. And revolve around me. Believe me, this was the height of my self-centeredness.

Yep, I played both roles perfectly. I directed a perfect show, as perfectly scripted as any ever seen. I acted perfectly as well, spectacular pronunciation, always hitting my queues. I was right where I needed to be at all times, doing whatever was necessary to make everything meet my standards. And my standards were nothing short of perfection, always!

Only when I joined AA did I realize that I was wrong just for playing the roles. Control is an illusion, and the more control I exercise, the less happiness I will maintain. Control comes with expectations, and rarely (if ever) are those expectations met. True happiness comes with avoiding expectations, and taking life as it comes. Expectations only lead to resentments and disappointment.

Recently I joined another program called Adult Children of Alcoholics, or ACoA, which is an offshoot of Al-Anon. I didn’t really consider myself a child of an alcoholic, but certainly alcoholism is present in my family, and the traits of the ACoA are traits with are prevalent in me. But a funny thing happened to me during today’s ACoA meeting: I discovered a new role in the play: The Reactor!

For every director and every actor in the plays created by alcoholics, there are a number of other characters, with roles ranging from bit parts to leading roles. Each of these characters is a reactor, reacting to the direction and acting of the alcoholic. The more time a person spends as a reactor to the alcoholic, the more the reactor develops defense mechanisms to deal with the abuse the alcoholic issues out.

These defense mechanisms are the tools we needed to survive our day to day lives. And they are the character attributes that cripple us today. Isolationism. Unease with authority figures. People pleasing and loss of our own identity. These serve us well when reacting to the alcoholic parent, but do they serve us well today?

Living like victims, with guilt, succumbing to the will of others. Letting others take the initiative, terrified of abandonment, addicted to excitement and drama, loving those we can rescue and those we pity, choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood: these are the signs of the reactor! These are the traits of the ACoA.

As an alcoholic, I play the role of the director and the actor. As my program progresses, I do less of that, accepting life as it comes at me, but I’m still far from perfect. I still fall back into those roles. But now I also see that, in so many ways, I play the role of the reactor. It plagues me every day, in every relationship, hell, in every basic interaction.

Only when I get past the traits developed in my role as the reactor will I be able to live the type of serene life that I search for, and have the type of healthy relationships I long for. A new challenge for a new day, right? I will attack this challenge like I have so many others, and maybe one day I will get past this set of inner demons and live a better life.

Posted by Scottage at 1:23 AM / | |